Tanzania asks China to begin work on $7bn rail ASAP

Tanzania is pressing the Chinese government to begin work as soon as possible on a standard gauge railway that will run through the central transport corridor.

We are confident that this project will help to bring an economic revolution in our country and in other countries of east and central Africa– John Magufuli, Tanzanian president

China has already agreed to help Tanzania to build the 2,561km standard gauge railway that will run between the port of Dar es Salaam and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Great Lakes states of Rwanda and Burundi, however it has not named a date for commencing works.

The first phase of the $6.8bn project will be the construction of a 1,216km railway connecting Dar es Salaam with Mwanza, on the southern shores of Lake Victoria in northwestern Tanzania.

John Magufuli, the president of Tanzania, told Lu Youqing, the Chinese ambassador, in a recent meeting that Tanzania wanted to start construction of the railway "as soon as possible", and had allocated 1 trillion shillings ($455m) in its next budget to help to pay for the first phase of the scheme.

He said: "We are confident that this project will help to bring an economic revolution in our country and in other countries of east and central Africa, including Burundi, Rwanda and the DRC, which is why we do not want to waste time in lengthy negotiations."

Ambassador Youqing reportedly congratulated President Magufuli and his government for preparing the financial, material and human resources necessary to implement the project, and added that Chinese companies would help to realise it.

The route of the standard gauge railway

Makame Mbarawa, the minister of works, said the next step would be to announce tenders for the construction of the railway and ask the winners to begin work immediately.

The sense of urgency in the Tanzanian government’s statements reflects the need to compete with Kenya’s Chinese-financed standard gauge railways, which is already nearing completion, according to International Railway Journal.

The two countries are racing to complete transport and port infrastructure, and thereby position themselves as logistical hubs for the rapidly growing east African regional economy.  

Currently, the Tanzanian rail network comprises two main railways: the Tanzania Railways Corporation network of 2,600km and the Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority (Tazara) of 1,067km, connecting Dar es Salaam with Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia.

The Tazara was built by the Chinese between 1965 and 1975 as a gesture of solidarity with Tanzania. This project involved 50,000 workers using building materials that were almost entirely shipped from China.

Image: One the Chinese built earlier: a bridge on the epic Tazara railway (Richard Stupart/Wikimedia Commons)

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